As a first timer to the 70.3 triathlon distance (half Ironman distance / middle distance) I wanted to find an event within a reasonable distance from home that was nice and flat (no point in adding any extra challenges into the mix) and with a swim in calm water as most of my open water swimming is in the sea, so a nice fresh water reservoir would be a welcome bonus. This left me with the Grafman Middle Distance triathlon in Grafham, Cambridgeshire. Although it is nowhere near Cambridge, it is a lovely little village.
With a few sprint triathlons under the belt, the middle distance really is a new discipline to train for. My first ever half marathon was just 2 weeks before the event and went without too many problems but swimming this distance and staying calm is definitely a challenge.
The registration process the day before the event was very simple and quick; the entire process only took around 4 minutes. It was nice to be able to walk into the transition area, find my number for the next day, and have a look at the swim start and course.
The swim is a mass swim entry, which means running in and plunging into the water and racing off in a pack. I decided to hang out on the left of the pack and take a wide lap to avoid being pushed and shoved too much. The swim also includes an "Australian Exit" which means after one lap you leave the water, run past the crowds of people and the waiting photographers, only to jump back in and swim another lap.
Leaving the water there is lots of support and people to help you out if needed.There are marshals pointing to the transition area and plenty of support in the bike area. It was a really nice atmosphere; very friendly and with a good buzz about it all.
The cycle section is on roads open to traffic; despite the traffic being very light, the few motorists who attempt to drive the same way as the cyclists it causes a bit of bunching. Being a non-drafting ride it is pretty hard when you can not overtake and there are several people in front. There wasn’t too much of the course like this and after 30k the riders seemed to space out.
The drink/gel stations were pretty efficient; you do not need to stop to be passed water or energy gels. Towards the end of the ride, I was worried I had made a wrong turn because I couldn't see any cyclists, but the marshalls are fantastic and I was directed the correct way and eventually saw a few cyclists in the distance.
Finally, the run. The toughest part of the run for me was the last 5 or 6km when you pass the finish line and run away from the sounds of the tannoy and music. It had been a tough race so far, but I was nearly there. Like the ride, the run is a few laps back and forth with water and gel stations at either end.